The urgent terrorist threat that’s not so urgent

Michael Pascoe writes in Crikey:

After yesterday’s Canberra showmanship, the big question for those who can still bear to think about federal politics is: Can you trust John Howard to run the country? Never mind his party heritage or perceived ideology, can you trust him not to betray us when offered a perceived political advantage?

For all but Howard loyalists and dopey Labor leaders, the “clear and present danger” non-media conference had all the hallmarks of a stunt too poor to make the final cut of Wag The Dog. This is the urgent threat you have when it’s not enough of a threat to officially qualify as an urgent threat.

The SMH’s Peter Hartcher this morning effectively accuses the Prime Minister of treason:

By announcing the existence of a specific terrorist threat yesterday, John Howard successfully shifted attention away from Labor’s favoured focus and onto the Government’s.

But in the process he used a megaphone to give suspected terrorists notice of raids. With two big, transformative bills coming before the Federal Parliament, Labor wanted to focus debate on one of them – the proposed changes to Australia’s industrial relations system.

It’s a big charge – John Howard is prepared to give terrorists a leg up if it helps deflect attention from his IR bill. It could come under the “assisting terrorism” provisions of the law Howard wants passed.

The problem with the allegation is that even to justify a little rendition to a Guantanamo Bay kangaroo court, there might have to be some substance to the allegation of a new and urgent terrorist threat.

And that’s where Dishonest John’s cries of “wolf” protect him from the treason charge – no-one, except those paid to, can really believe him any more.

For the State Premiers, it’s a matter of simple politics – there’s only political downside in not going along with the stunt. For Kim Beazley, well, it seems that he’s been a sucker for any security briefing ever since they let him play with the big toys when he was Defence Minister. Trot out someone in khaki or a trilby and dark glasses and Kim rolls over and begs.

Which leads to the next big question: Why should we have any faith in our so-called “intelligence” community?

From what we know of them, they are at best inept and at worst politically corrupt. There is absolutely no reason to think the denizens of ASIO and ASIS and the Office of National Assessments and the Wiggles’ Spook School are any more intelligent or diligent than their fellow public servants at, say, DIMIA. And we do know a bit about them.

About the only recent Australian intelligence official we know to be a man of both intelligence and integrity was Andrew Wilkie – anyone remember him? He was the poor sod who broke ONA ranks to try to tell the truth about Iraq. Oh, there was also Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins who tried to blow the whistle on another aspect of our politicised intelligence community, but he was shafted too.

Thus we have a Prime Minister we can not trust to put the nation’s best interests before politics and an Opposition Leader who either won’t/can’t/doesn’t know how to take him on.

Depressing, isn’t it?

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